University of Leicester
2017BrosnanJPHD.pdf (2.13 MB)

The contribution of Elizabeth Blackwell to sex education, 1849-1910

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posted on 2017-11-07, 09:07 authored by Jennifer Brosnan
This study examines the contribution of Elizabeth Blackwell to sex education between 1849 and 1910. In doing so it addresses a new aspect of a long neglected topic in the history of medicine and the history of women in medicine but is not a biography of Blackwell. This thesis engages with recent scholarship in the fields of the history of medicine, gender and sexuality. The first chapter situates the secondary literature on a range of subjects that will be addressed in this research. Chapter 2 examines a range of new primary sources including exam papers and medical textbooks from the time Blackwell was studying to become a doctor in order to determine the scope of her medical education, particularly in relation to reproductive health. The chapter contends that there was a tendency within the male-dominated profession to focus on the health issues of men, especially in relation to their sexual well-being. Chapter 3 highlights the publications of Blackwell as a means of determining her contribution to sex education. The reviews of her works will also be considered as a means of establishing the audience she wrote for throughout her career. Chapter 4 demonstrates that female medical networks were influential in shaping Blackwell’s path in medicine. Her relationship with medical women such as Florence Nightingale and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson will be examined here. Chapter 5 considers the organisations Blackwell was affiliated with, including the Anti-Contagious Diseases Act Movement, the National Health Society and the London School of Medicine for Women as a means of highlighting her work for sex education outside of her written works. This thesis concludes that Blackwell contributed greatly to sex education over the course of her medical career both in terms of her publications on the topic as well as her work with social and moral campaigns.



King, Steven; Brock, Claire

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Historical Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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